Trading standards officers have issued warnings to consumers about prospective scammers who are using the coronavirus crisis to cheat them out of their money.
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One minister dubbed these con artists “master opportunists” and urged people to report any incidents in which they feel that they have been cheated. In a bid to curb the amount of fraud, the government has issued a warning list of the most common types of scams.
One of the most common ways in which consumers can be cheated is through online fraud. Since more people are shopping online as a result of local lockdowns, scammers have begun to offer low-quality or counterfeit products at higher prices. In addition to this, multiple copycat websites of legitimate government websites have sprung up, offering special saving schemes or benefits to unsuspecting victims in exchange for their personal information/
With so many people now working from home, the risk of cyber-fraud has also increased, since businesses cannot control all the networks accessed by their employees. Employees should be aware of malware and redirected payment systems that are being distributed via online channels.
Scammers often lure older, more vulnerable people through text messages, social media and emails. Some fraudsters even target the elderly at home, by offering to provide essential services like grocery shopping and running away with the money, or posing as salesmen with “miracle cures” and home testing kits. Scammers often look to obtain personal details such as bank details and credit card numbers while running these schemes.
The property market has also seen its share of fraud, with some users reporting that they were cheated by home viewing websites which did not show accurate pictures of the properties they wanted to rent or buy.
A recent report by Ernst and Young further highlights how fraudsters are tweaking their approaches to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis and target consumers. In addition to scams like the ones described above, the report highlights how the economic downturn has led to an increase in first-party fraud, in which consumers falsify information on loan applications and insurance requests.
Oliver Dowden, the cultural and digital secretary, said that the government is taking all possible measures to prevent the spread of rumours and false information online. He added that anyone receiving any coronavirus related information should check their sources before sharing it.
With this increase in fraud, consumers need to be even more cautious while purchasing goods or services online or offline. Consumers need to be careful about who they share their details with and the channels on which they share them. It is also equally important to check the source from which they get any emails or government communication, especially before circulating it. This can prevent the spread of fraudulent information.
Any individual who suspects that they have fallen prey to a scam should contact Citizens’ Advice.